By Iolanda Fresnillo Citizen Debt Audit Platform Spain (PACD Bcn)
Desperate people queuing for food or stone and Molotov cocktail wars against asphyxiating gas. These are some of the most common images that come from Greece. But reality is kaleidoscopic and changes depending on where you look.
On the streets of Athens and Thessaloniki you can breathe some normality, but while businesses in the center are mostly open, in the suburbs signs “for rent” are everywhere. Urban furniture that suffered the brunt of the latest demonstration or simply the passing of time has not been repaired. Aristotle University of Thessaloniki has no longer cleaning service. In the suburbs of Attica rubbish piles up because it is not collected every day. “The cuts”, they say. The majority of the population seems to be in shock. But there are also many that feed a swarm of citizen initiatives.
Greek colleagues tell us that to be attended at a hospital you have to pay 25 euros, or more depending on the treatment you may need. Delivery in public hospital costs 800 euros, 1600 if cesarean. There are no drugs because Roche and Novartis refuse to deliver them without pre-payment. Thousands of children are not vaccinated because it is no longer free.
Standing up to all this, self-managed and free clinics are opened in different cities thanks to the solidarity of the people and the initiative of health professionals. Solidarity pharmacies are also opening, to distribute medicines among those who can’t afford them.
We also see how unemployment rises to 27% (unemployment among young people between 16 and 25 years is 60%), how factories and companies are closed, how labor rights of workers are violated, who sometimes continue working for months without receiving their pay.
We meet Vio.Me workers, who recover the factory where they were dismissed from and build a cooperative for self-management. We also spoke with Skaramagas shipyard workers, which have gone months without earning and without building ships. They occupied the Ministry of Defense earlier this year as a response to the rudeness of the Minister that never turned up at a meeting with them. Beyond mobilizing and supporting each other, some confess that at their 60s they are considering emigrating to Germany to build the ships their government will then buy with loans.
We know that the debt, which is becoming increasingly unsustainable, is being paid at the expense of social cuts, but also with the plundering of Greek natural resources and territory. We hear about the Canadian Eldorado Gold mining company, who bought for few Euros a mountain in Chalkidiki to exploit the gold that lies beneath its land
But we are pointed out that the population of Chalkidiki is fighting every day against the construction of what may become the largest open mine in Europe. As the citizens of Thessaloniki, who through Initiative136, are opposing the privatization of water in their city and are gathering resources (136 euros per citizen) to be able to bid and take over water management.
We are accompanied all the way by activists from Debt Audit and No Debt No Euro, who are struggling to spread knowledge on the illegitimacy and illegality hiding behind debt and adjustments, and require the cancellation of a debt clearly considered illegitimate.
Despite the attempts of economic and political power to subjugate the population, to sow despair and endlessly insist that there is no alternative, in Greece, if you are in the streets, universities, factories, hospitals or schools, you find people who are able to overcome shock to reinvent the country’s future.